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Calverton Hills homeowners sue county over outdated sewer system

Calverton Hills homeowners are suing Suffolk County in federal court over the need for a new sewage treatment plant that could cost about $7 million, landlords say.

The suit, filed June 30 in U.S. District Court, asks for a judgment that declares Suffolk County the owner of the Calverton Hills property and its sewage treatment facility, according to court papers.

Suffolk County filed a motion Oct. 6 to dismiss the complaint, arguing the case should be dropped on a jurisdictional basis and that a notice of claim was not timely served, according to court documents.

The condominium development, which has 236 units with either two or three bedrooms, includes a low-income community, Calverton Hills Homeowners Association president Daniel Hotchkin said.

Many of the units are rentals and are occupied by households that receive various types of government assistance and can’t afford to front the cost of a new system, he said. There is a concern that if the sewer plant is not brought into compliance with systems that filter out nitrogen, residents and renters would be kicked out, he said.

“We had no choice but to sue them,” said Mr. Hotchkin, who owns and rents out five units. “Where are the families going to go?”

Mr. Hotchkin said the unit owners do not own the sewer treatment plant and therefore can’t get financing or grants to pay for a new one. Instead, homeowners claim, the county has owned the plant since the community’s original owner, Nugent Building Corp., dissolved in 1980.

According to court documents, around 2007, the county health department advised homeowners at Calverton Hills that the treatment plant was not operating according to code. Documents submitted by the county say that “the common elements of the property” were deeded to the Calverton Hills Homeowners Association in 1990.

Additionally, the county said homeowners voluntarily entered into a consent agreement in 2007 to bring the sewer treatment system into compliance, according to court papers.

“Suffolk County generally does not comment on pending litigation, however, we have moved to dismiss this claim because we do not think it is a viable claim against the county,” county spokesman Abdul Sada said.

The homeowners are asking that the county make the necessary repairs or replacements required by sanitary code, according to court documents.

Michelle Janlewicz, a plaintiff in the case along with the homeowners association, said that since 2007 the cost of a new system, which at that time could have been as much as $2 million, “just kept mounting and mounting and mounting.”

“Anyone that doesn’t make the median income is going to have a difficult time,” Ms. Janlewicz said.

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Photo credit: Kelly Zegers